There is no such thing as an Engineer Dress Code. On the contrary, there are many, and they are field-specific. The dress code also depends on the rank within the company, the tasks assigned, and yes, whether your are male of female. This post provides stylist’s tips who analyzed and took notes of the style of successful female engineers so you can dress for success too. Read how to meet the dress code as a female engineer.
- Female Engineers’ Challenge: Meeting a Dress Code Made for Men
- Business Attire, Business Casual to Casual Dress Codes Exist
- How to Meet the Dress Code as a Female Engineer
- Examples of Professional Female Engineer Attire
- Wrapping Up How to Meet the Dress Code as a Female Engineer
While the dress code varies among engineering fields, it always nails down to the same point: Whoever is the client, the client still expects a guy to show up. Of course, you can’t and don’t want to meet that expectation. But at least, you want to meet the expectations on all other points.
Think of meeting with clients or customers for the first time like dressing to a job interview in a conservative field. The customer will interpret your being a bit overdressed as respect. More on what to wear to a job interview as a woman engineer.
How stiff (business attire – think suit and tie) or casual the expected look is, depends on the engineering field, the service the company/agency offers, and the size of that company/agency, and even on the climate of the region you have to work in.
Rules of thumb:
The bigger the company, the less casual.
The higher up you are in the hierarchy of any big company, the less casual your outfit.
The more hands-on outside work is involved in your job, the more casual is the allowed work gear. It can even nail down to an overall with hard hat on an oil platform in summer.
Stylist tip: When dressing as a female engineer keep in mind your engineering work is the product your employer wants to sell.
Because of the different kind of work they do, the work appropriate attire differs among disciplines. You can find
- More on outfits of a female civil engineer.
- What to wear as a female engineer in a huge company to don fashion forward corporate style.
- What to wear on field trips as a female engineer.
- What is best to wear in the first weeks on a new job.
The trick is to translate the company’s dress code to female pieces that won’t hinder doing the same work as your male colleague does.
The following list of dress code tips for female engineers illustrates how you can meet the expectations regarding your attire:
- Expectations: Looking like business man (suit, shirt, polished shoes, leather briefcase, tie, tie holder). Women engineer: Show up in a tailored (wool) suit, button-down tailored shirt or solid color tailored blouse, polished lace-up oxfords shoes or zipper booties, structured leather tote large enough to hold a tablet, laptop or whatever you need to schlep, and neckerchief or short (pearl) necklace (when you know you won’t climb equipment or ladders). Stick to neutral colors of your palette except for accessories. Avoid extreme trendy colors (e.g., neon-whatever, ultra-whatever). More on wearing neutrals without looking boring.
Stylist tip: A pearl necklace is the tie of a woman.
- When you work in a lab and need to wear a lab coat, get one that’s tailored for women. Wear the female equivalent of what the male colleagues wear underneath your lab coat. For a meeting, dress like your male colleagues, but in the respective female equivalent.
- When meetings with customers or clients do not involve being outside or climbing equipment and the dress code is suit-shirt-tie, a classic skirt suit is ok.
Tip: When you have to climb equipment, buy pants with some stretch to have a full range of motion (see video).
- When the dress code is business casual style and your meetings with customers or clients don’t involve being outside or climbing equipment, an unmatched skirt suit with a button-down shirt is ok as well as dark denim jeans with a button-down shirt and tailored (wool) blazer.
- Wear a short classic coat like a short thigh-length trench coat or traditional style pea coat. Both coat styles permit climbing equipment/ladders.
- Eye contact with your male colleagues or clients is important. When you are petite, try shoes with a thick sole (0.5 inch, 1.3 cm) and 1.25 inch (3.2 cm) heel. Wedges not higher than 2 inch (5 cm) are another great option. More on styling wedges for work.
Stylist tip: Wedges give you height, but are much easier to walk on than pumps.
- Expectation: Jeans and sweater in winter, jeans or chinos with shirt in summer. Women engineer: Go for turtle or crew-neck sweaters in silk or cashmere (winter), slightly tailored button-down shirts (summer). Pair them with dark denim straight jeans, slacks or chinos. More on how to style chinos.
Stylist tip: Dark denim straight (stretch)jeans are stylish and perfect with a blazer for a business casual environment.
- Dress code (typically unwritten): Short hair. Women engineer: Have a short hair cut or a hair-do. A low ponytail like Kate Middleton, lob, bob, pixie, or shag are chic options that work with a hard hat. Also look at female soldiers’ hair cuts for great field practical options.
- Dress code: Engineering boots. Go for them, they are cool and chic.
When your job involves to spend time outside in business casual attire build a sun safe work wardrobe.
For further ideas on how to dress for success in engineering see this slide show with business casual examples.
Stylist tip: Skirts or dresses only work when you spend your day at your desk and/or in a seminar room.
Of course, as a female engineer you fail to meet the expectation of clients who think an engineer is male. However, you have more freedom in your choices of how to dress to impress. Use them wisely. Also be aware of the nuances in the dress code among engineering disciplines. It’s important to stay away from all attire, accessories and footwear that could
- Become a safety issue,
- Cause injury,
- Make typical work-required actions of your discipline difficult or even impossible, and
- Could become a peep show.
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